The Tributes to John and Marian, also, continue. John has been the heart of the RPCV community and Marian’s support of RPCV books and their authors will support that legacy. I am one of so many RPCVs who have benefited from their generosity and support. I will be forever grateful.
I appreciate the opportunity to post these thoughts that were written before I knew of the John’s decision.
There are no Peace Corps Volunteers serving now and no dates certain forreturning to host countries. However, there is much interest in looking towards to how the Peace Corps can improve in the future.
- Representative Garmandi introduced the Peace Corps Reauthorization Act. (https://peacecorpsworldwide.org/congressman-john-garamendi-introduces-peace-corps-reauthorization-act/)
- Peace Corps responded to President Biden’s Executive order on advancing racial equity and supporting underserved communities.( https://www.peacecorps.gov/news/library/the-peace-corps-responds-to-president-bidens-executive-order-on-advancing-racial-equity-and-support-for-underserved-communities-through-the-federal-government/).
- The NPCA held Town Halls through the summer with RPCVs and has published “Time for a Change” (https://www.peacecorpsconnect.org/articles/now-is-the-time-for-historic-changes-that-includes-the-peace-corps)
I think we can build on these recommendations to eliminate financial barriers to serving; codify the legal status of Volunteers; and plan strategies for developing trained Volunteers in the critical areas such as climate change and food scarcity.
- The cost of serving includes the cost of applications and the loss of income over 27 months. Peace Corps should cover all cost of medical examinations for applicants, adjust readjustment allowance to compensate for the loss of income, and provide Volunteer veterans with the same benefits as military veterans receive.
Admiral James Stavirdis, former Supreme Allied Commander for Global Operations at NATO, advanced the idea of “incentivizing” Volunteer service such as Peace Corps by providing Volunteer Veterans with benefits comparable to those given to military veterans. That GI Bill provides substantial help with buying a first house and getting an education. I would go further and say this does not incentivize service, as much as remove financial barriers to service. Hear Dr. Staviris expand on his idea during this three hour “After Words” interview on C-Span. His comments come during the beginning of the second hour. https://www.c-span.org/video/?472952-1/depth-admiral-james-stavridis
- Peace Corps Volunteers, now as in the beginning, serve at the ”pleasure of the President” and this authority is delegated down to the field level. There may well be different interpretations from country, program and decade. A personal service contract would go towards guaranteeing equal treatment for all Volunteers. Such a contract would spell out specific rights and responsibilities. The rights should include whistleblower status, EEOC protection and include the provisions mandated by the Kate Puzey Peace Corps Volunteer Protection Act of 2011 and The Sam Farr and Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018. It should describe the appeal process. Responsibilities would include adhering to drug policy and all other policies deem necessary to a particular country and assignment.
- Both the military and the Public Health Service have provided scholarships to qualified students to study needed professions, such as nursing and medical practices. In turn, the Recipients owe so many years of service to the organization. Global climate change, environmental practices and programs to protect against food scarcity are problems which call for well trained Volunteers. Peace Corps should offer scholarships to well qualified applicants to train in specific needed fields. In return, the graduate would serve for a specific number of years.
Such a program might offer the possibility of Peace Corps developing relationships with universities to provide feedback from the field, offer technical support to Volunteers and maintain ongoing relationships with host countries. It might be possible to also offer scholarships to students from host countries to work together with Peace Corps, the Universities and governments in host countries. It also could help answer the all-important questions: What is working and why; and What is not working and why?